Here's another Christmas novella collection. I'm loving all of these. I'll be reading and reviewing them in October and November. As with the last interview, I'll add the photos of the authors in the order that they answer the questions. Now, tell us how did your story for the collection come about?
Debby Mayne: I liked the idea of connecting these stories through family, which is where love starts. To give it a unique twist and show that people can find love at any age, I wanted to write about a widowed grandmother.
Paige Winship Dooly: Our stories feature three granddaughters coming home for their grandma’s wedding. Each has been away for various reasons, and I decided to do a rebel with a deep heart who felt she didn’t deserve happiness after she left her fiancé at the altar. I gave her a redeemed hero, the fiancé, to work with. It was a fun story to write.
Elizabeth Ludwig: Brainstorming with such a talented group of writers is a wonderful thing. When we first started tossing around ideas for a Christmas anthology, ideas were flying fast and furious. Thankfully, Debby has a solid head on her shoulders and got our group to focus on one particular theme that flowed throughout all four stories. I firmly believe that it’s because of her guidance we were able to put together a proposal that snagged Barbour’s interest. Anyway, using Debby’s idea of a common thread, I created a character whose passion for publication had driven her away from home. It’s only when she learns that her grandmother intends to remarry that she dares return to face the people she loved, and who she’d desperately disappointed.
Elizabeth Goddard: My teenage daughter was on a missions trip in South Africa, soon to return. I knew immediately that mine would start with a missionary returning home for Christmas. The fun thing was that as I was writing the summary—I think it was midnight as the group worked together on this—Rachel called. She had just stepped onto Texas soil—her return destination.
What are you reading right now?
Debby Mayne: I have a stack of Christian chick lit, Southern humor books, romances, and quirky mysteries.
Paige Winship Dooly: Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy
Elizabeth Ludwig: I read a lot of books that are similar to my own—call it research. Recently, I finished The Wiles of Watermelon by Lynette Sowell, Of Mice and Murder by Mary Connealy, and Misfortune Cookies by Linda Kozar. These are all very talented ladies, so I knew when it came to writing cozy mysteries, I had my work cut out for me.
Elizabeth Goddard: Sahara by Clive Cussler, and I’m looking forward to reading George Bryan Polivka’s Blaggard’s Moon.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Debby Mayne: My published works include mostly romances, one mystery, and a devotional with other authors. My upcoming releases are Peachtree Dreams, Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida, Noah's Ark, Be Still…and Let Your Nail Polish Dry, and this anthology (Christmas Homecoming).
Paige Winship Dooly: Heart’s Desire, Treasure in the Hills, The Greatest Find, Carousel Dreams, and The Petticoat Doctor (scheduled for release in Spring of 2009); all with Heartsong Presents. Lilly’s Pirate from the Sweet Liberty anthology, Cornerstone from the Church in the Wildwood anthology, Seeking Shade from the Christmas Duty anthology, Head over Heels from the Sweet Home Alabama anthology, and The First Noelle from the Christmas Homecoming anthology. Treasure in the Hills has been released in a 3-in-1 anthology titled Prairie Hills in February of 2009.
Elizabeth Ludwig: Believe it or not, I started out writing historicals. My first was a western I titled The Surrendered Heart. From there, I went on to create a series of Scottish historicals, none of which will probably ever see the light of day, though I thoroughly enjoyed writing every word. My published works include Where the Truth Lies and two more cozy mysteries in that series, Died in the Wool and A Black Die Affair, respectively. This novella, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, was quite a difference experience for me, but I loved doing it, and hopefully, I’ll write many more novellas in the years to come.
Elizabeth Goddard: Seasons of Love released in 2007 and as part of a 3-in-1 as Cranberry Hearts in 2009, and Portrait of a Murder, 2009.
What is the hardest thing about writing a part of a novella collection?
Debby Mayne: The timeline and consistency among the characters.
Paige Winship Dooly: Making sure the characters are consistent in each book, and that the stories flow well.
Elizabeth Ludwig: I really felt the pressure of writing something that was up to not only my own standards, but of the other authors in this collection as well. I don’t know why I felt that way—these ladies were completely supportive the entire time and I enjoyed working with them. Still, I did not want them to be disappointed.
Elizabeth Goddard: Making sure the stories flow well together, we’re all on the same page even in the small details.
How did collaborating with this team impact you?
Debby Mayne: I became very good friends with them.
Paige Winship Dooly: We worked together on proposals before, and through this experience I was able to get to know all three women better.
Elizabeth Ludwig: This was a whole new experience for me. Aside from making three wonderful new friends, I really learned what it takes to collaborate effectively on a project that all four people have a vested interest in.
Elizabeth Goddard: It was the first time for me to meet and work with these ladies—now I have wonderful new writing friends!
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Debby Mayne: We started out using Christmasy names. However, when another name was needed, I used my baby naming book.
Paige Winship Dooly: It varies. For this story, I used Noelle in order to blend with the Christmas carol title, and Rocky, the solid hero, just seemed to fit with Noelle and the setting. Sometimes the names are in my mind first, and I build the story around the characters. Other times I have the story in mind, and have to write using “H” for hero and “h” for heroine until I know the characters well enough to name them. Then I use baby books or online searches to find the best name and meaning for those characters.
Elizabeth Ludwig: Our main characters all had Christmasy sounding names, so that part was easy enough—I mean, how many “Christmasy” names can you think of, right? For the others, it was a matter of choosing a name that fit the character’s personality. I usually spend a few days rolling possibilities around in my head until I come up with something that fills the bill.
Elizabeth Goddard: That was easy enough—I just stuck with names that fit in with a Christmas theme.
What did you want the reader to take away from your story?
Debby Mayne: Since my heroine and hero are in their 60's, I wanted to show that people can find love at any age.
Paige Winship Dooly: I love the thought that you can always come home again, and that it’s never too late to make amends and communicate with people you love.
Elizabeth Ludwig: My story is loosely based on the parable of the Prodigal Son. With this in mind, I tried very hard to achieve a modern retelling that would speak to anyone’s heart who knows what it feels like to wander away from home. Ultimately, I wanted the reader to realize that with God, there is no distance too great that we cannot return to Him.
Elizabeth Goddard: That sometimes God’s will for our lives can change direction, and we need to be receptive to that.
Are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers? Yes. If so, why?
Debby Mayne: The professionalism of this organization keeps me on top of the needs of the market. I've also made some wonderful, lifelong friends.
Paige Winship Dooly: Yes, I’m a member, and I enjoy the people and the connections that are built. We have a conference each year, online groups for each area, the e-mail loop, etc. It’s a wonderful way to network.
Elizabeth Ludwig: I am a member of ACFW, and have been since 2002. I joined because having received so many rejections to the proposals I was sending out, I knew there was still something I needed to learn. I figured an experienced group of writers like the people I would find in ACFW could only help. Boy, was I right! For those authors just starting out, I say align yourself with others who have the same goal. You will be encouraged, challenged, uplifted. . .everything it takes to make it in this competitive business.
Elizabeth Goddard: Yes, I’m a member and joined in 2001. I don’t think I’d be writing a thing if it weren’t for the encouragement I’ve received in this organization.
What is the best piece of advice you received as an author?
Debby Mayne: Don't take revision personally.
Paige Winship Dooly: Do it now.
Elizabeth Ludwig: If God has called you to write, don’t give up, no matter how trying the effort. While waiting for publication, I grasped onto Habakkuk 2:2-3 and repeated the verses to myself often. Now, whenever I autograph a book, I add the reference as a reminder that God is faithful to fulfill that which He has called me to do.
Elizabeth Goddard: Never give up.
Thank you, dear friends, for spending this time with us.
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